Lucknow, (IANS): Campaigning for the final phase of the seven-stage Uttar Pradesh assembly elections came to an end at 5 p.m. on Monday, bringing the curtains down on one of the most caustic and bitterly-fought political battles ever seen in recent times.
The last round of balloting on March 8 for the 403-member assembly comprises 40 constituencies in Poorvanchal or eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur, Varanasi, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Bhadohi, Sonebhadra and Jaunpur districts.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi, went to the Gadwaghat Aashram, venerated by millions from the Yadav community, and also visited the ancestral home of the late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at Ramnagar to pay homage to him.
He also addressed a rally at Khushipur in Rohaniya area, winding up an extensive campaign in which he addressed more than two dozen rallies. He urged people to boot out the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress and vote for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Meanwhile, for the SP-Congress alliance, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav addressed seven back-to-back rallies in Poorvanchal, during which he accused Modi of “misleading the people of UP”, while Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally at Jaunpur where he called Modi an “aging leader” and asked people to vote for young leaders.
Gandhi also took potshots at the ‘Acche Din’ slogan of the BJP, saying the film has flopped.
Akhilesh Yadav’s wife and Kannauj MP Dimple Yadav also addressed three rallies in Bhadohi and Chandauli.
BSP supremo Mayawati did not address any rally on Monday and took stock of the balloting so far from her Lucknow bungalow, a party leader said.
The electorate in the seventh round of polling comprises 1.41 crore voters, including 64.76 lakh women. A total of 14,458 polling centres have been set up, a poll panel official told IANS.
Security forces have stepped up vigil for the last phase as three districts — Chandauli, Mirzapur and Sonebhadra — are Maoist-affected.
The maximum number of candidates in the fray are from Varanasi Cantt (24) and the least (6) in Kerakat assembly constituency.
In the 2012 state assembly elections, the SP had swept the region by winning 23 of the total 40 seats. The BSP trailed far behind with five, followed by the BJP with four and the Congress with three. Five seats went to other smaller parties.
Votes will be counted on March 11, along with counting of ballot cast in the Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab assembly elections earlier. The Election Commission has already begun preparations for the vote count at 75 centres across the state.